Japanese fighter jets scrambled 238 times in FY2023, mainly for Chinese aircraft

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The Japanese Ministry of Defense reported that during the first quarter of the fiscal year 2023, fighter jets from the Japan Air Self-Defense Force scrambled 238 times to intercept aircraft threatening the country’s airspace and territory. 

On July 14, 2023, the Joint Staff Office of Japan released the official figures for the number of scrambles during the first quarter of fiscal year 2023, covering the period from April 1, 2023, to June 30, 2023. 

The data reveals that the number of scrambles during this period reached 238, which is on par with the figures recorded during the same period in the previous year, amounting to 235 scrambles. 

The statistics further highlight the focus on China and Russia in the airspace surrounding Japan. In the first quarter of fiscal 2023, there were 157 scrambles (66%) involving Chinese aircraft, a slight decrease from the previous year’s figure of 171, though this number remains substantial amid ongoing tensions in the region. 

On the other hand, scrambles involving Russian aircraft have seen a significant increase. During the same period in 2022, there were 58 scrambles; in the current year, there have been 73 scrambles (31%). According to the Joint Staff Office, this represents the highest level of scrambles against Russian aircraft since fiscal year 2013, pointing to a notable rise in Russian military activity near Japan’s airspace. 

The report highlights notable examples of incidents happening during the period: joint flights by Chinese bombers (H-6) and Russian bombers (Tu-95) for two consecutive days on June 6 and 7, 2023, and the presence of approximately 620 carrier-based fighters operating from the Chinese Navy Kuznetsov-class aircraft carrier Shandong sailing in the Pacific Ocean.  

For the first time, a Y-9DZ intelligence-gathering aircraft from China was detected flying over the Pacific Ocean on the morning of June 8, 2023. 

In the fiscal year of 2022, the JASDF had reported 778 scrambles in total, a decrease compared to the previous year with 1,004 scrambles. 2021 marked the second busiest year on record, after the record high of 1,168 scrambles during the fiscal year 2016. 

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